Living a Life of Gratitude Every Day
For the last few weeks we’ve been thinking about Thanksliving: Living a Life of Gratitude Every Day. We have talked about how we should consider everything we have and are (even the challenges of life) as blessings from God. And we have talked about Thanksliving as living a Christ-like life because, according to Paul, our rejoicing does not come from the things of the world as our Joy is in Christ.
This Sunday, we will be considering Thanksliving as the heart of the church. It will be a very personal message as I share with you why I am thankful for the Church. I believe that when Jesus established His church, He did not have buildings and institutions in mind, but rather viewed the church as people (“upon your faith Peter I will build my church”) and that his intention for the church was to provide His disciples the opportunity to bless the world. (“If you love me, Peter, as you profess you do, then feed my sheep”). Our place in the church is not so that we can receive God’s blessings, but rather so God can use us to “feed His sheep”. In the past year, this has been made evident in many ways at St. Luke.
Last year during the food distribution at Thanksgiving, I was working a shift in the Fellowship Hall and I noticed a mother and two kids who were there working also. I had never seen them before and at first thought that they had come to receive and had somehow gotten on the working side of things rather than the receiving. So, I started up a conversation with the Mom and she said to me that even though they weren’t members, she hoped it was okay if she and her children worked a shift. And she said to me, we first came to St. Luke to participate in Upward Basketball, and my children received so much from that, I wanted them to know what it meant to give back. That’s Thanksliving. That is the heart of the church. This fall, we have had an influx of nearly 40 children and youth from the neighborhood surrounding St. Luke come and participate in our Wednesday.comm program. Many of them are children with a lot of needs and they have placed a great strain on our volunteers and staff, who have served them with great joy (and amazing patience). Recently one of the children brought her mother to Wednesday.comm who commented that her daughter had said to her: “the church is such an awesome place, you’ve just got to come and check it out”. Feed my sheep. Thanksliving.
Early in the year, we became aware of the large number of immigrants from the Congo that had come to Lexington (the third largest population of Congolese in cities in the US). Many were coming from refugee camps. And they were looking for a place where they could worship together in their own language and came to St. Luke because they had heard that we were a church that was open to new worshipping communities. That first Sunday there were about 20-25 who gathered in the Loft to worship. Now there are 70-75 every Sunday. They are outgrowing the Loft. Thanksliving.
I am so thankful that God has placed St. Luke here so that each of us can participate in blessing our neighbors and community in these and many other ways. So many great things are happening through the ministry of St. Luke. But, (and I will not sugar coat it) our resources have been stretched way too thin. We need a great outpouring from the hearts and lives of generous, thankful people.
This Sunday, as the culmination of our Thanksliving theme, we will have the opportunity to share the great blessings of our lives with God, who is the source of those blessings in the first place. At the conclusion of each of our morning services, we will have the chance to fill the horn of plenty on the altar with the fruits of our lives, a great Thanksliving offering. We do not give out of the need of the church to receive but out of the joy of sharing our lives with others. “If you love Me, feed My sheep”. God has blessed Karen and I so much this year. I can’t wait to return my thanks on Sunday and then see how God will use that to bless others in the days and weeks and years to come. I am asking you to join me in this great outpouring of our lives for Jesus Christ. Let’s spend the next few days in prayer for the Church and then come Sunday expecting to be a part of a great outpouring of the love of Christ. Thanksliving.